Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Chicken

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One of the most common ways that Italians show their pride is by wearing or displaying the national colors (red, white and green). National pride might also explain why the similarly colored watermelon is so popular in Italy and why it’s not uncommon to see street vendors selling wedges of watermelon during summer festivals and other celebrations.

Watermelon also plays a key role in many Italian holidays. During the Assumption Day celebrations – a major religious holiday observed throughout Italy – a watermelon feast is held in Venice to help “keep community ties.” In the Italian city of Villa Lagarina, legend has it that when a truckload of watermelon arrived in the 1920s, the townsfolk were astonished by the look of the fruit and placed the bounty in the fountain at the center of town. The tradition continues to this day with the “watermelon fountain” being filled each year during the three-day celebration.

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Watermelons are about 93% water, the highest water content of all fruits. They are also rich in potassium, one of the elements the body loses through sweating, as well as vitamins A and C. Watermelon’s sweetness is due in large part to some of the aromatic compounds it contains, yet they are low in calories. Watermelons originated in Tropical Africa and are in the same family that also includes cantaloupes, cucumbers, squash and zucchini. They were first cultivated by the Egyptians thousands of years ago and arrived in Europe in the 1200s with the returning Crusaders.

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People quickly realized the value of this fruit during the summer months and, as they became known amongst the country folk, they picked up local names: Anguria in much of Northern Italy, Cocomero in Tuscany and Melone D’Acqua (water melon) in parts of the south, especially around Naples. Their popularity continues and the annual Italian watermelon crop is between 550 and 600,000 metric tons, which translates to about 100 million watermelons. They first appear in the Italian markets in May and the season lasts until the beginning of September.

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Growing watermelons can be complicated. Not only because there are three basic types: normal, hybrid and seedless but each type needs a different culture. Watermelons need healthy, warm soil. Once the seeds are pollinated and there is sufficient heat, a watermelon will mature in about four months. Another important consideration is the fact that watermelon vines appreciate sufficient water, but overwatering can be a problem if the vines are not grown on fast draining sandy soils. Probably the single most common modern cultural practice in watermelon culture is the use of black plastic to cover the raised beds on which the melon plants are planted. The black plastic heats up the soil and this is quite beneficial. Watermelon fruits produced on black plastic will usually produce earlier and more quickly and with sweeter fruits.

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In Italy, many growers now grow watermelons in polytunnels – a tunnel made of polyethylene, usually semi-circular, square or elongated in shape. The tunnels significantly improve the speed of growth and sweetness of the fruits, as well as protecting the fruits from physical damage. Growers who use polytunnels are almost obligated to hand-pollinate, just because attracting enough bees inside the tunnels is a difficult task.

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Italian Watermelon Ice

Makes about 5 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3-pound piece chilled watermelon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a small saucepan simmer the water with the sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the syrup to a bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir occasionally until the syrup until cold.

Discard the rind from watermelon and cut the fruit into 1-inch chunks. In a blender purée the watermelon chunks, syrup and lemon juice. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a 9-inch square metal baking pan, pressing hard on the solids in the sieve. Freeze the mixture, covered, until frozen, about 6 to 8 hours. The mixture can be left in the freezer for 2 days. Just before serving, scrape the watermelon ice with a fork to lighten texture and break up ice crystals. Serve in the traditional paper cups.

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Watermelon Smoothie

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups watermelon cubes
  • 1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 2 pinches ground cardamom

Directions

Combine the ingredients in a blender and purée. Serve immediately.

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Watermelon Salad with Hot Pepper and Basil

Ingredients

Makes 4 cups

  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • 3/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup seedless grapes, quartered
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced hot chili peppers
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Allow the flavors to blend before serving.

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Grilled Chicken Topped with Watermelon Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 medium-sized chicken breasts
  • 1/2 small watermelon, cut into large cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced fine
  • 1 pinch paprika
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • 1 Lemon, zested
  • 4 tomatoes, diced into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup olives, pitted and chopped
  • 4 roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
  • Half of a small eggplant, peeled and sliced
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the grill
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup feta cheese, broken into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat an outdoor or indoor grill. Brush with olive oil. Brush the chicken and eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook chicken on each side for 5-6 minutes, or until cooked to 165 degrees F. Remove chicken to a clean plate to cool. Cook the eggplant about 2 minutes on each side, remove to a cutting board and cut into small dice.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic and onion. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, then add the diced eggplant, paprika, cumin and lemon zest. Cook for another minute.

Remove to a large bowl and add the fresh tomatoes, olives, roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes and mix gently. Stir in the parsley leaves, watermelon and feta.

Cut chicken breast into thin slices and place on individual plates. Evenly divide the tomato watermelon salad between the plates.

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Grilled Tuna with Watermelon Salsa

2 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 5 ounce fresh or frozen tuna steaks, cut 3/4- to 1-inch thick
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped seeded watermelon
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow or orange sweet bell pepper
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh mint
  • Lime wedges (optional)

Directions

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the ground oregano, the lime peel, lime juice, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper and the salt. Pour over the fish in the bag; turn to coat fish. Seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

For the salsa:

In a small bowl, combine the chopped watermelon, bell pepper, green onion, mint and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Set aside.

Drain fish, discarding marinade.

For a charcoal grill, grill fish on the greased rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 6 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, gently turning once halfway through grilling. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place fish on the greased grill rack over  direct heat. Cover and grill as above.)

Serve fish topped with watermelon mixture. If desired, serve with lime wedges.

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cherries

Cherries are in season and you can use them to create sweet or savory recipes.  There’s no need to limit cherries just to desserts. Use them in muffins, coffee cakes or pancakes for breakfast or add them to salads, salsas, sauces and shakes.

Traverse City, Michigan and Vignola, Italy, both claim to be the cherry capital of the world. Traverse City grows more cherries but Vignola’s been growing them longer. It’s the Pacific Northwest, however, that accounts for 70 percent of the sweet cherry production, while Michigan produces about three-quarters of the tart variety.

Nutritionally, cherries are very much like most fruit in that they contain fiber and antioxidants, such as vitamin C and beta carotene.

Choosing Cherries

Rain is the industry’s biggest problem. Ripe berries will split open if they get wet at the wrong time, making the crop sometimes unpredictable. The most popular Northwest sweet cherry is the Bing. These large cherries will be a dark burgundy color when fully ripened. The smaller, heart-shaped Lambert cherry is similar in taste to the Bing. A yellowish colored cherry is an extra-sweet hybrid called the Rainier.

In the Midwest, the Schmidt is a variety similar to the Bing. Other sweet cherry varieties of that region are the Emperor Francis and the Rainier. Tart cherries can sometimes be found at local farm stands for use in pies and jams. When picking out fresh cherries, make sure they’re firm (but not hard) and without soft spots or bruises. The stems should be green and not darkened with age.

Wash the cherries and pat dry and then store them in a plastic container for up to two weeks. Cherries deteriorate rapidly if they’re not kept refrigerated.

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If you want to take advantage of the in season prices, you can freeze cherries. The only equipment you’ll need beforehand is a cherry pitter and surgical gloves (unless you want red hands for days). A cherry pitter works very well.

To freeze, lay the washed cherries, pitted, on a jelly roll pan in a single layer and place in the freezer. When they’re solid, place them in labeled Zip-Lock freezer bags and they should keep for up to a year. Never defrost cherries, however, before using in your cooking or baking because they become mushy.

You can also make dried cherries that are great for baking or for use in granola and salads. This is a great way to use up overripe or crushed fruit. Arrange cherries skin side down on foil-covered cookie sheets or jelly roll pans. Place in a 200 degrees F oven for four to five hours or until the cherries are shriveled. They should be leathery and slightly sticky, but not hard.

Cool, then store in Zip-Lock bags or plastic containers. It is best to store homemade dried fruit in the refrigerator or freezer because the moisture that is still present in the fruit may cause some bacterial growth. Dried fruit will also taste fresher longer, if kept in a cool place.

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Tomato Bruschetta with Sweet Cherries

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 loaf good, crusty Italian bread
  • 1 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced to 1/4″ chunks
  • 1 cup bing cherries
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, plus one whole clove for the bread
  • 2 tablespoons yellow onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for bread
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper

Directions

Place the diced tomatoes in a colander, sprinkle with the 1/2 teaspoon salt, and set aside to drain for 20 minutes. Pit and quarter the cherries. In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, cherries, parsley, minced garlic and onion. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar into the olive oil.

Meanwhile, cut the bread into 1/2″ thick slices, rub with the whole clove of garlic and brush with olive oil. Toast the slices of bread in a toaster oven or under the broiler until golden and crisp. Drizzle each slice with a 1/2 teaspoon of the olive oil/vinegar mixture and then carefully spoon on the bruschetta. Garnish with a few parsley leaves and serve.

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Grilled Chicken Salad with Cherry Vinaigrette

Next time you are grilling, add a few extra chicken breasts for a summer salad the following day.

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut in half to make four pieces (about 1/4 pound each)
  • Olive oil, salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary, chopped fine
  • 8 cups assorted garden lettuce or greens, such as baby romaine, leaf, red oak, endive, arugula, spinach (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 10-15 radishes, sliced thin
  • Toasted pecans, optional

Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1/2 cup cherry juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger root (peeled first),
  • Dash salt, cayenne pepper and/or freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a blender, combine the ingredients for the vinaigrette.

Chill in a covered container until ready to use. (The dressing can be strained for a smoother appearance.)

Brush the chicken with oil and sprinkle with salt, ground black pepper and the chopped fresh herbs.

Grill the chicken and refrigerate until needed.

Wash and dry the salad greens. Toss with the onions, pecans, if using, and radishes. Slice the chicken diagonally into thin strips.

Just before serving, toss the lettuce mixture with the vinaigrette. Lay the salad on the plates and top with the sliced chicken. Garnish with additional chopped fresh herbs.

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Maple Cherry Sauce

Makes 1 cup.

This sauce  can be used hot or cold as a topping for grilled meats, yogurt, ice cream or cheesecake. Tart cherries may be used, but you’ll need to adjust the amount of sweetener.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup cherry juice or juice blend
  • 2 teaspoons arrowroot flour or cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 2 cups pitted fresh or frozen sweet cherries, halved

Directions

In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the juice and flour or cornstarch.

In a medium saucepan, pour in the juice mixture and the maple syrup. Stir over medium heat until the sauce starts to thicken.

Add the cherries and simmer until they soften, crushing them a bit. Don’t overcook.

Cool or serve hot. The sauce will thicken a little as it cools.

Option: add 1 teaspoon grated orange rind or 1 tablespoon brandy.

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Cherry Cheesecake Bars

These healthy bars are an easy dessert to take to a family barbecue.

Ingredients

2 cups Maple Cherry Sauce (double the recipe above)

Crust

  • 2 cups crushed graham crackers (for gluten-free, use almond flour)
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Filling

  • 1-1/2 cups vanilla Greek yogurt. (Brands that contain modified food starch and/or gelatin won’t work in this recipe.)
  • 2 eight-ounce packages 1/3 less fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 large eggs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Have a 9-by-13-inch baking pan ready.

Place the crackers in the processor and process until fine crumbs form.  mix in the oil and sugar. Pour into the baking pan and press onto the bottom of the pan.

In the processor or using a mixer, beat the yogurt and cream cheese together. Beat in the maple syrup and vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. Pour the mixture over the crumb crust in the baking pan.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the center has puffed up. (It will fall somewhat when cooled.) Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least three hours.

Just before serving, spread with the cherry sauce and cut into bars.

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Italian Old Fashioned Cherry Cake or Dolce Di Ciliegie

Servings: 6-8

This historical family recipe has been published by the famous Italian cook, Artusi, in his book, “L’arte la scienza in cucina e l’ arte di mangiar bene” in 1891.

Frozen cherries are too juicy to use in this recipe.

Ingredients

1/2 lb fresh cherries, pitted

For the Baking Pan

  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 2 ounces almonds ( ground)
  • 1 tablespoon plain breadcrumbs (finely grated)

For the Filling

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 4 ounces powdered sugar, plus extra for the top of the cake
  • 2 ounces plain bread crumbs, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons liqueur (Amaretto or Maraschino cherry juice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Butter a 10 inch pie pan or baking pan. Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200°C).

Distribute the almonds and the one tablespoon bread crumbs to completely coat the bottom of thebaking pan.

Blend the egg yolks with the powdered sugar until creamy and soft. Incorporate the bread crumbs, liqueur or juice and vanilla.

Beat egg whites separately in another bowl until soft peaks form and gently fold into the egg yolk mixture. Pour into the baking pan.

Drop the cherries on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes or untilthe top is brown and the cake is cooked through.

Dust the top with powdered sugar.

Serve hot or cold.

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Duck With Cherries In Chianti

This dish was developed for a banquet to be served at the Castello di Gabbiano, south of Florence. Italian cherries were in season and the cherries were cooked in Castello’s Chianti.

The sauce was served with locally caught duck. Culinary instructor and cookbook author, Katie Caldesi, The Italian Cookery Course, is the creator of this recipe.

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 duck breasts, skin on
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Sauce

  • 3 1/2 ounces cherries, halved, pits removed
  • 2/3 cups orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups red wine, such as Gabbiano Chianti

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To make the sauce,

Put the cherries in a ovenproof dish, pour in the orange juice, then sprinkle with half the sugar. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the cherries have softened and browned a little. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, pour the wine into a saucepan with the remaining sugar and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes to allow it to reduce to about a third of its volume (you want about 2/3 cup).

Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper. Heat a nonstick frying pan and, when hot, fry the breasts, skin-side down, for about 6 minutes, then turn them over and fry for another 4 minutes.

This will give you medium-rare meat. If you prefer it well cooked, transfer the duck breasts to a baking pan and roast in the oven for about 10–15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the cherries and the wine into a large frying pan and bring to a boil over a high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and thickened.

Slice the duck breasts and arrange them on warmed serving dishes. Pour the cherry wine sauce over and serve with plenty of creamy polenta.


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Piacenza is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Piacenza. Piacenza is located at a major crossroad between Bologna and Milan and between Brescia and Tortona. The city hosts two universities, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Politecnico di Milano.

Founded by the Romans, destroyed by the Goths and resurrected by medieval noble families, this elegant Emilia-Romagna city flourished due to its location on a natural commercial artery, the Po River. In this place, nature dominates among rocky spurs, hills strewn with vineyards and sceneries dominated by spires, towers and impressive fortresses. It is a land full of natural beauties, valleys and mountains, but also history and art. It is also an excellent example of Gothic-Lombardy architecture. This is also the main production area for Parma hams (almost all are produced here) as well as Parmigiano cheese and Colli di Parma wines.

The outermost roads and valleys have always been used as passageways and battlegrounds. This explains the presence of castles and strongholds here since ancient times. Some of them are open to the public but others are still occupied. The great number of medieval castles with their unmistakable shapes stand out all over the land: for example, the Fortress of Castell’Arquato and the castles of Gropparello, Paderna, Rivalta and Rocca d’Olgisio.

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The best preserved castle is Torrechiara. The castle is almost unchanged, since the 15th century when it was built by Pier Maria Rossi. Every room is filled with “grotesque” frescoes, where naked acrobats perform impossible feats of fantasy atop lions. In other rooms, fantasy scenes combining animals, plants and people are strung out over every surface.

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Rocca d’Olgisio is set in the rock and presides over the valley of the Tidone. It is one of the oldest and most striking strongholds in the Piacenza area, surrounded by 6 rows of walls. It was built in the eleventh century and, after several owners, it changed hands in 1378 from Gian Galeazzo Visconti to Jacopo Dal Verme, the valorous winner of the Battle of Alessandria against the Florentines.

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Castello di Corticelli is in the municipality of Nibbiano and the little fortress has belonged to the Arcelli Counts for centuries. It was first mentioned in 1028. Originally the fortress may have been made up of just two towers (now the layout is quadrangular) surrounded by a moat and walls that enclose an oratory and several rural houses within, which are built in stone and are still standing.

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The Castle and Fortress of Agazzano was first built in the 1200s for purely military purposes (round corner towers, drawbridges) with a loggia added by Luigi Gonzaga. Next to the fortress there is an eighteenth-century villa. The contrast between the two buildings that make up this architectural complex adds to its charm. The walls of the large rooms of the villa contain furnishings from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Particularly noteworthy are the ceramics and porcelain pieces. The French-style garden, with its statues and fountains, is from the end of the eighteenth century, when Luigi Villoresi, director of the park of the Royal Villa in Monza, assisted in its design.

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The Castle and Village of Rivalta is mentioned in documents as early as 1048 and in the fourteenth century it passed into the hands of the Landi family, who still own it today. It is an impressive residence surrounded by a magnificent park and among its frequent visitors there are members of the English Royal family. It stands out for the unmistakable and unique profile of its turret. The large reception room, dining room, kitchen, cellars, prisons, bedrooms, tower, armory, gallery, billiard room and museum of military costumes are all open to the public. The castle also has 12 luxury rooms in the village, if you want to stay the night.

Some of the folklore that exists around these structures are:

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One of the most famous in the region is the Bardi Castle and it was the setting of a romantic love story between lady Soleste and Morello, one of her young and more valiant knights, whose ghost apparently still visits the place.

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According to legend, the fairy, Berna, elected Montechiarugolo Castle as her home. People say she appears to young brides on the night before their wedding day to give them all the advice they need.

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Far more unsettling is the story of Lady Cenerina, who was brutally murdered in 1573 at Soragna Castle. Her ghost still haunts the place and her presence is felt by the family whenever something awful is about to happen.

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Another haunted place is Grapparolo Castle where Rosania was imprisoned by her jealous husband. Her laments and wails can still be heard on stormy nights.

Supposedly, the ghost of Count Pier Maria Scotti can be seen and heard at Agazzano Castle. The unlucky nobleman was stabbed to death by a group of traitors who wanted to get hold of his fortress.

The Cuisine of Piacenza

Piacenza and its province are known for the production of seasoned and salted pork products. The main specialities are pancetta (rolled seasoned pork belly, salted and spiced), coppa (seasoned pork neck, containing less fat than pancetta, matured at least for six months) and salami (chopped pork meat flavored with spices and wine that are made into sausages).

Bortellina (salted pancakes made with flour, salt and water or milk) and chisulén (a torta fritta made with flour, milk and animal fats mixed together and then fried in hot clarified pork fat) are then paired with pancetta, coppa or salami and Gorgonzola and Robiola cheeses.

Among the culinary specialties of the region are mostarda di frutta, consisting of preserved fruits in a sugary syrup strongly flavored with mustard and tortelli dolci or fruit dumplings, that are filled with mostarda di frutta, mashed chestnuts and other seasonings.

Turtéi, a similarly named Piacentine specialty, is a type of pasta filled with either squash or spinach and ricotta cheese. Pisarei e fasö is a mixture of handmade pasta and borlotti beans.

Piacentine staple foods include corn (generally cooked as polenta) and rice (usually cooked as risotto), both of which are very common across northern Italy. There are also locally produced cheeses, such as Grana Padano.

The hills surrounding Piacenza are known for their vineyards. The wine produced in this area is qualified with a D.O.C. (Denominazione di origine controllata) and is called “Colli piacentini” (“Hills of Piacenza”). Some of the other local wines are Gutturnio (red wine, both sparkling and still), Bonarda (a red wine, often sparkling and foamy), Ortrugo (a dry white wine) and Malvasia (a sweet white wine).

Recipes From Piacenza

piacenza01 Piacenza Cold Tomato Soup

Serves 4

  • 10 large tomatoes
  • A bunch of parsley, chopped
  • A bunch of chives, chopped
  • 6-7 basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, a few drops
  • Croutons for garnish

Directions

Blanch the tomatoes for one minute, peel, seed and purée them in a blender. Pour into a bowl and add the chopped herbs, the fresh garlic without its core, the oil, salt and pepper. Let it marinate for a few hours at room temperature. Remove the garlic and process the mixture in the blender, again. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add a few drops of Balsamic Vinegar. Place in a covered serving bowl, refrigerate for a couple of hours. Serve garnished with croutons.

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Piacenza-Style Tortelli

For Pasta

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3-4 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For Filling

  • 5/8 lb spinach (about 3 cups, packed)
  • 7 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 ½ oz Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 egg
  • Nutmeg
  • Butter
  • Salt

Directions

To prepare the filling:

Cook the spinach, drain, squeeze and chop. Mix together with the ricotta cheese, then add the one egg, cheese and a little nutmeg.

To prepare the pasta:

Sift the flour onto a pastry board, make a well in the center and add the eggs, 3 tablespoons water and the salt and mix well. Add the extra water, if the dough seems a bit dry. Roll out into a thin sheet, divide it into strips about 3.2 inches wide and make as many small squares measuring 1.6 inches that you can.

On each of these put a dollop of filling. Fold the pasta to make either a triangular shape  or a ravioli shape and seal the edges.

Cook the tortelli in boiling salted water.

Drain and serve dressed with melted butter and a generous helping of grated cheese.

piacenza0 Chisolini  (Fried Dough)

The chisolini can be served with various ingredients such as Parmigiano cheese, prosciutto, salami, etc. An easy way to eat Chisolini is to put the meat and cheese in the center of the rectangle and fold it in half. They can also be eaten for breakfast with coffee and milk.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 ounce pork lard
  • 1/2 ounce fresh yeast or 2 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons (5/8 cup) tepid water
  • Oil for deep frying

Directions

Put the flour onto a working surface and make a little well. Put the pork lard in the center of the well, then add the salt to the flour and finally dissolve the yeast in the water before adding to the flour. Mix everything together using your hands and knead the dough for 10 minutes.

Once the dough is ready, put it into a container and cover with a kitchen cloth. Let it rise for a couple of hours. After two hours the dough should have doubled its size. Spread a bit of flour onto the working surface, so that the dough will not stick to it when rolled out. Turn the tough out onto the floured surface.

Using a rolling-pin, make a large disk roughly 5 mm (3/16″) thick. Then, using a pastry wheel, cut the dough into rectangles, about 10 x 8 cm (4″ x 3 1/4″). Don’t be worried, if you get some with different sizes, like 10 x 6 cm (4″ x 2 1/2″) or 10 x 7 cm (4″ x 2 3/4″); it will work, with whatever shapes are cut.

Fill a Dutch oven halfway with oil and heat to 180-190°C (355-375°F). When you drop the rectangles, one at a time, into the hot oil, you will see that it will stay in the bottom of the pan for just few seconds, then it will float and after few seconds again, it will inflate. Then, fry each side until they are golden. Usually, it takes 30-40 seconds per side, if fried at 190°C (375°F), but it could be less, if the temperature of the oil goes up, so look for the golden color rather than going by the time.

Fry all the rectangles and put them into a large container with a tight-fitting lid.

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Chicken or Rabbit Piacenza-style

Ingredients

  • 1 Chicken or Rabbit, cut into 8 or 10 parts
  • 2 ounces lard or shortening without trans-fats or oil
  • 1 ounce butter
  • 2 onions (medium size – thinly sliced)
  • 1 celery stalk (thinly sliced)
  • 3 1/2 ounces crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • A small bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 6 tablespoons (3/8 cup) white wine
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and black pepper for seasoning

Directions

Put the chicken or rabbit parts into a large bowl filled with cold water. Add the vinegar to the water, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. After about an hour, take the bowl out of the refrigerator, discard the water, rinse the chicken or rabbit parts and pat them dry.

In a large sauté pan with a cover, melt the lard together with the butter over medium-high heat. When the fats start sizzling, add the onion and the celery to the pan and sauté for 3-4 minutes.

Add the chicken or rabbit to the pan. Cook on each side for a few minutes until lightly brown. Add the tomatoes and stir until evenly distributed around the pan. Add the wine to the pan and stir. Then, add the chicken broth. Season with salt and black pepper.

Turn the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid and cook for about 1 hour, turning the chicken or rabbit every 20 minutes.

Finely chop the parsley and garlic together and add to the pan. Stir and continue cooking for another 10 minutes with the lid on. Uncover the pan and cook 10 minutes more to reduce the sauce to a thicker consistency.

Plate the chicken or rabbit and serve with polenta in the Piacenza style.


whatsfordinner

Things that are fun in the summertime: going to outdoor concerts, attending fairs and festivals, walking in the park and relaxing at the pool. Something that’s not fun in the summertime: spending time cooking, especially in front of a hot stove. Here are a week’s worth of healthy recipes you can make for dinner pretty quickly.

Monday

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Farmers’ Market Pasta Salad

8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup diced firm, ripe fresh peaches (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • Parmesan Vinaigrette, recipe below
  • 6-oz penne pasta
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 10 oz.)
  • 1/3 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup torn fresh Italian parsley

Directions

Toss together the first 6 ingredients and half of the dressing in a large bowl and let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions.

Add hot the cooked pasta, chicken and basil to the vegetable mixture; toss gently to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a serving platter and top with parsley. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette.

Parmesan Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

Process Parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, pepper and salt in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add basil and cilantro; pulse 5 or 6 times or just until blended.

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Carrot Spice Muffins

Make these when you have time and store them in the freezer for when you need them.

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup low fat yogurt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots (about 3)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick spray or use muffin liners.

Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the liquid ingredients. Add the liquid to the dry and mix just long enough to combine.

Add the carrots and stir to combine.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups–it will be very thick. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Tuesday

whatsfordinner1

Salmon Cucumber Boats

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 6 oz canned pink salmon, drained or leftover cooked fresh salmon
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled

Directions

Combine the first six ingredients. Halve cucumbers lengthwise, remove seeds in each half and stuff with salmon mixture. Chill.

Salad with Tangerines

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh lettuce or spinach, torn into bite size pieces (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 seedless tangerine, peeled, pith removed and sectioned
  • 1/2 cup toasted nuts, coarsely chopped

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, tangerines and nuts.

In a medium bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients until well combined. Toss with salad mixture and serve.

Wednesday

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Chilled Tomato Soup with Melon

  • 2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 of small melon, such as cantaloupe or honeydew, plus a wedge of seedless watermelon
  • 1/4 cup chopped seedless cucumber, optional
  • Basil pesto, thinned with a little water for garnish

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine the tomatoes with the olive oil, basil, garlic, vinegar and sugar. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook over low heat until hot but not boiling, about 10 minutes.

Pass the soup through the fine disk of a food mill into a medium bowl to remove the tomato seeds and skin.

Cover the bowl and chill the soup in the refrigerator overnight or quick-chill it by setting the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water.

Cut the melons into 1/2-inch dice. Pour the soup into bowls. Garnish with the melon, cucumber, if using and drizzle with the thinned basil pesto sauce and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The tomato soup can be refrigerated for 1 day without the garnishes.

whatsfordinner8

Grilled Shrimp Pita

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and deveined
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided, plus additional for brushing grill
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 3/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 2 cucumbers (about 1 pound), peeled
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 small red onion, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rings
  • 4 whole-grain flat breads (pita)
  • 8 small romaine leaves

Directions

Preheat  an outdoor or indoor grill.

Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Stir together 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon oil and 1 tablespoon each dill and oregano in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to combine. Marinate, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

To make cucumber sauce: Stir together 1/4 cup of the yogurt, half of the garlic, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon dill in a serving bowl. With a vegetable peeler, cut cucumbers into lengthwise ribbons, discarding the seeded core. Toss cucumber ribbons with yogurt mixture and pepper, to taste.

To make yogurt sauce: Combine the remaining 1/2 cup yogurt with remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, remaining 1 tablespoon dill and remaining garlic in a small serving bowl. Season with pepper, to taste.

Toss tomatoes and onion with remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil in a bowl.

Grill shrimp, tomatoes and onion in a lightly oiled well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or grill pan or basket, turning once, 5 minutes or until shrimp are bright pink and cooked through, tomatoes are softened and onion is golden and tender. Transfer to a plate; cover and keep warm.

Grill flat bread until golden brown and slightly crisp. Transfer to 4 serving plates; top evenly with cucumber salad, shrimp, onions tomatoes, and romaine, if desired. Top with yogurt sauce.

Thursday

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Rib-Eye Steak with Pistachio Butter and Asparagus

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons shelled, roasted unsalted pistachios*
  • 1/2 cup arugula, packed
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 boneless rib-eye steak ( about 8 oz)
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Process pistachios and arugula in a food processor until minced. Add butter and blend until smooth, scraping down the inside of the bowl as needed. Transfer to a small container and chill.

Heat a charcoal or wood-fired grill to high (450°F to 550°F; you can hold your hand 5 inches the above cooking grate only 2 to 4 seconds).

Coat steaks and asparagus with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill steaks, turning once, until done the way you like it: medium rare or medium.

Grill asparagus in the last few minutes, turning once, until tender-crisp.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board, dollop steaks with butter and tent with foil. Let rest 5 minutes. Slice steak and serve with asparagus.

Make ahead: Chilled Pistachio butter will keepup to 1 week.

*If you can’t find unsalted pistachios, use unsalted butter to balance the salty nuts.

whatsfordinner5

Fresh Grape Tomato Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Romaine leaves, optional

Directions

Mix tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and garlic powder together in a bowl. Crumble oregano between your fingers to release the flavor and add to the tomatoes; stir to coat. Season with salt. Let flavors marinate before serving, 5 minutes or up to an hour. Serve over a romaine leaf, if desired.

Friday

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Halibut Kebabs with Grilled Bread and Pancetta

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boned and skinned halibut, cut into 2-in. chunks or firm white fish available in your area (such as grouper, swordfish, cod, etc.)
  • 4 cups 1 1/2-in. cubes crusty Italian bread, such as ciabatta
  • 3 ounces pancetta, sliced paper-thin
  • Four – 10 inch metal skewers

Directions

Heat an outdoor grill to medium (350°F to 450°F).

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Add halibut and bread. Toss to coat, then set aside for 5 minutes.

Skewer an end of 1 pancetta strip, then alternate fish and bread cubes on a metal skewer weaving pancetta between them. Repeat 3 times.

Grill kebabs, turning frequently, until fish is cooked through and the bread is slightly charred in places, about 6 minutes. Remove to a serving plate and cover with foil.

Don’t turn off the grill - you will need it to grill some of the ingredients for the salad below.

whatsfordinner7

Grilled Peach-and-Avocado Salad

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1 large peach, peeled and chopped
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Salad

  • 2 large peaches, peeled, pitted and halved
  • 1 firm avocado, peeled and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Dressing

Process 1 large peach, peeled and chopped; 6 tablespoons olive oil; vinegar and honey in a blender until smooth. Add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.

Salad

Gently toss 2 large peaches, peeled and halved and avocado in 1 tablespoon olive  oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Grill, covered with the grill lid, 2 minutes on each side or until charred. Slice and serve over arugula. Top with peach vinaigrette and cheese.


Healthykids

Want your children to be healthy – start with healthier food.

Providing healthy food in school and at home and educating children, parents and school staff about the importance of good nutrition and exercise definitely leads to improved the health.

At home, try to serve healthy meals and have healthy snacks available, such as apples, yogurt, whole grain cereals and cut-up fresh veggies in the refrigerator.

If your child’s school does not offer physical activity and nutrition education programs, contact the principal or the school board to find out if changes can be made to these programs. Check the lunch program for healthy options for your child and if, you are not satisfied with what they offer, give your child a lunch to take to school. At the same time, try to get the school to offer healthy options for those who want them.

The good news is that as long as you provide a wide variety of nourishing foods, your child’s diet will balance out over time. Here are some healthy foods that are as good for you and your children as they taste.

Blueberries

A perfect finger food for tiny eaters, blueberries usually go on to become life-long favorites. They are packed with vitamin C for immune health and fiber that can help keep kids regular. Berries of all kinds may help combat allergies, as well

Fresh blueberries are always a favorite with children. Add them to smoothies, pancakes, muffins, desserts and even salads.

Black Beans

The darker the bean, the more nutritious it is, elevating black beans to the top of the superfood list. Their protein and fiber content help balance blood sugar and provide growing bodies with long-lasting energy. One cup of black beans also supplies about 20% of your child’s iron needs for the day.

Black beans can be added to chili, pureed into a dip with garlic, tomatoes and herbs or mixed with scrambled eggs.

Eggs

Eggs provide high-quality nutrition at an affordable price and are a great source of choline, an often overlooked but essential nutrient for brain and nervous system development. They’re also high in protein and are a good dietary source of vitamin D.

Since eggs can be added to virtually any baked good, chances are your kids are already enjoying them. Look for muffin and pancake recipes using several eggs, and experiment with omelets and frittatas. Popular combinations include: zucchini and basil, onions and potatoes, and tomato, mozzarella and ham.

Spinach

Spinach is another highly nutritious food and is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K for optimal immunity and bone health. It’s also high in iron, several B vitamins and boasts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties making it a winner for heart and eye health.

If your child likes the flavor of pesto, replace half of the basil in the recipe with fresh spinach. Use as a sandwich spread, pizza topping or pasta sauce. Frozen chopped spinach is perfect for adding to meatballs or meatloaf.

Keep on trying different foods Don’t assume that your kids will never like something, if they’ve tried it once and dismissed it. Tastes change over time.

After School Snacks

healthykids1

Apple Snack Wedges

Ingredients

  • 2 medium apples
    1 cup Rice Chex (or other healthy crispy cereal), crushed
    1-1/2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

Directions

Core apples; cut each into six wedges. Pat dry with paper towels.

In a small shallow bowl, combine the cereal and brown sugar. Spread cut sides of the apples with peanut butter; roll in cereal mixture. Serve immediately.

healthykids4

Strawberry Mango Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup low fat milk
    1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
    1-1/2 cups halved fresh strawberries
    1 medium mango, peeled and chopped
    4 to 6 ice cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

In a blender, combine all ingredients; cover and process for 30-45 seconds or until smooth. Stir if necessary. Pour into chilled glasses; serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.

healthykids3

Peanut Butter Granola Mini Bars

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
    1/3 cup honey
    1 egg
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    3-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

In a large bowl, beat the peanut butter, honey, egg, oil and vanilla until blended. Combine the oats, brown sugar and salt; add to the peanut butter mixture and mix well.

Stir in the dried fruit and chips. (Batter will be sticky.)

Press into a 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes or until set and edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into 24 bars.

Lunch Box Ideas

healthykids5

Chicken Wrap

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup hummus
    1 whole wheat tortilla (8 inches), at room temperature
    1/2 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
    1/3 cup shredded cooked chicken breast
    1/2 carrot, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

Directions

Spread hummus over the tortilla; top with spinach. Place chicken, carrot and red pepper strips in a row near the center of the tortilla; roll up tightly. If desired, cut crosswise into slices. Wrap securely or pack in an airtight container; and refrigerate until serving. Yield: 1 serving.

healthykids6

Lunch on a Stick

Ingredients

  • Cheddar or Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
    Grape tomatoes
    Whole wheat bread slices, cut into 1-inch pieces
    Leaf lettuce
    Sliced deli ham and/or turkey, cut into 1-inch strips
    Seedless red or green grapes
  • Wooden skewers (5 to 6 inches

Directions

Cut cheese into 1/4-inch slices. Thread a skewer with 1 piece of cheese, bread, ham or turkey, tomato, lettuce and grape. Repeat the order again on the skewer. Make 3 more skewers.

Let children be creative and place their favorite healthy ingredients on a skewer. Yield: 4 servings.

healthykids9

Bean Dip & Chips

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup fat-free canned refried beans
    1 tablespoon salsa
    1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
    1 minced scallion
  • 1 ounceh ealthy tortilla chips, (about 10)

Directions

Combine refried beans, salsa, cilantro and scallion (if using) in a bowl. Serve with tortilla chips.

Healthy Dinner Options

healthykids7

Parmesan Chicken Nuggets

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
    1 cup Italian seasoned panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Marinara sauce

Directions

Place butter in a shallow bowl.

Combine the panko crumbs, cheese, garlic powder and salt in another shallow bowl.

Dip chicken in butter, then roll in crumbs.

Place in a single layer on two 15-inch x 10-inch x 1-inch baking pans.

Bake at 375°F for 15-18 minutes or until no longer pink, turning once. Serve with marinara sauce, if desired.

healthykids2

Pizza Meatloaf Cups

These are great to reheat for a quick dinner on soccer night.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    1/2 cup pizza sauce
    1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
    1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
    1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
    1-1/2 cups (6 ounces each) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Additional pizza sauce

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the egg, pizza sauce, bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well.

Divide among 12 greased muffin cups; press onto the bottom and up the sides. Fill the center with cheese.

Bake at 375° F for 15-18 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink.

Serve with additional pizza sauce, if desired. Or cool, place in freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months.

To use frozen pizza cups: Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Heat on a microwave-safe plate on high for 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 1 dozen.

healthykids8

Vegetable Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots
    1 medium green bell pepper
    1 medium onion
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 cups marinara sauce
    2 cups part skim milk ricotta cheese,
    2 cups (16 oz) shredded part skim milk mozzarella cheese, divided
    3 oz grated parmesan cheese
    1 egg
    1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz lasagna noodles, no boil

Directions

Chop carrots, green pepper and onion.
In a skillet, saute the vegetables in oil. Stir in the 2 cups of marinara sauce to heat it through.

In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt and egg.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread 1 cup sauce mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish coated with olive oil cooking spray.

Layer 1/2 each, uncooked lasagna noodles, cheese mixture, sauce,. Repeat layering, and top with remaining cheese.

Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F  for 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes.


tomatoseason

A single plant can produce over a dozen tomatoes, which means you can give a basket to the neighbors and still include almost every meal with this nutrient-rich fruit. Serve them in pasta, pizza, vinaigrettes and even desserts. Paired with the right spices, tomatoes can be sweet, tangy or tart.

Sometimes the best way to enjoy fresh produce is to free it from heavy sauces or other flavor-masking extras. Serve a Mediterranean-inspired stuffed tomato with feta, olives and a little basil. It’s a great complement to any grilled entrée or add a little chopped chicken to the mix and serve on its own. Use sturdy, ripe tomatoes for optimal flavor and presentation.

When the temperature climbs, dinner cravings often tend toward light and simple. Make a pasta dish that’s packed with the freshest of ingredients, including fresh mozzarella, garlic, basil and, of course, tomatoes. A little olive oil adds flavor that rounds out the simple sauce.

Fresh tomato salsas, chutneys and dressings add color and flavor to almost any meat. Try it with grilled sea bass for a refreshing summer dish. A warm vinaigrette dressing pairs well with fluffy couscous, so make extra to use on other main dishes.

Update pizza night by replacing the standard jarred tomato sauce with a homemade basil pesto sauce. Top a store-bought pizza dough with the pesto, then layer on chopped tomatoes, garlic, provolone and a few sprinkles of basil and bake for a quick homemade pizza.

Looking for some new ideas on how to use tomatoes? Have you thought of these?

tomatoseason1

Roasted Tomato Soup with Shrimp

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 medium ripe tomatoes, quartered and seeded (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
  • 1 medium red onion, cut in wedges
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup torn crusty country bread
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water (optional)
  • 12 ounces peeled and deveined cooked shrimp, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, sweet pepper quarters, onion wedges and garlic between two 15x10x1 inch baking pans. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Roast 30 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and vegetables are lightly browned on edges.

Place roasted vegetables and any pan juices in a large food processor. Add bread. Cover and process until smooth. Transfer to a large serving bowl.

Stir in vinegar, basil, salt and pepper. If desired, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup water to make a thinner consistency. Cover; chill at last 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Spoon soup in bowls. Top with shrimp. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and, if desired, sprinkle with parsley.

tomatoseason2

Chicken-Stuffed Tomatoes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds cooked chicken breast
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or regular balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 large tomatoes (8 to 10 ounces each)
  • 2 thin slices firm-texture whole wheat bread, toasted and cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Chop enough meat to measure 2 cups; save the remaining chicken for another use.

In a medium bowl, combine the 2 cups chicken, the spinach, green onions, basil, vinegar, oil and garlic. Toss to evenly coat.

Cut a 1/4 inch-thick slice from the stem end of each tomato. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the tomato pulp, leaving a 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick shell.

Place shells, open sides up, on a serving plate. Discard tomato seeds. Chop enough of the tomato pulp to measure 1/2 cup; reserve remaining pulp for another use.

Stir the 1/2 cup tomato pulp into the chicken mixture.

Divide chicken mixture among tomato shells. Top with bread cubes and cheese.

tomatoseason3

Pork Chops in Herbed Tomato Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 pork rib chops, cut 1 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onions
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 large clove mashed garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Dry the pork chops on paper towels. Heat the oil in a heavy, 10-12 inch oven-proof skillet with a cover.

Brown the chops, 2 or 3 at a time, on each side for 3 to 4 minutes. As they are browned, transfer them to a side dish.

Add the onions, cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes. Mix in the flour and stir over low heat for 2 minutes more. Stir in the tomatoes and the next four ingredients.

Cover and cook slowly for 5 minutes. Stir in the wine and beef stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Return the pork chops to the pan and push them into the sauce.

Cover the pan and bring to simmer on top of the stove, then set the pan in the lower third of the preheated oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the chops are done.

Arrange the chops on a serving platter and pour the sauce over the chops. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

tomatoseason4

Tomato-Artichoke Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 1/4 pounds plum (Roma) tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut into thin slivers

Directions

In a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups of the flour, the yeast and salt. Add the warm water and the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping side of bowl constantly. Beat on high-speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in cornmeal and 2 cups of the remaining flour.

You can also use the dough hook on the electric mixer for this addition and the addition of the remaining flour below, instead.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to oil the surface.

Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place until double in size (45 to 60 minutes). Punch down dough; let rest for 10 minutes.

Grease a 15x10x1 inch baking pan. Place dough in the prepared baking pan. Gently pull and stretch dough to the edges of the baking pan, being careful not to overwork dough.

Lightly coat dough with cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let dough rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (about 30 minutes).

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Arrange tomato and artichoke slices on a double thickness of paper towels. Let stand for 15 minutes. Change paper towels as necessary so all of the excess liquid is absorbed from tomatoes and artichokes.

Using your fingers, press deep indentations in the dough 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart. Brush dough with the 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary. Arrange tomatoes, artichokes, onion rings and garlic slivers evenly on top of dough.

Bake about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into rectangles. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 servings.

tomatoseason5

Pan Roasted Fish Fillets With Tomato Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-oz.) fish fillets (3/4- 1 inch thick) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon shredded basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced

Directions

Pat fish dry with paper towels. Season fish with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook fish in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 3 minutes on each side. Transfer fish to a plate and keep warm.

Add onion and garlic to the skillet and sauté 2 minutes or until the onion is tender. Stir in capers, basil, oregano and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute.

Reduce heat to low, add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Return fish to the pan with the tomato sauce and heat gently. Serve fish topped with the sauce.


My Local Farmers' Market

My Local Farmers’ Market

A farmers’ market is a place where farmers sell their products directly to consumers. Ultra-fresh produce, pastured meat and eggs, artisan cheeses, hand-harvested honey and other fresh, small-batch foods are the hallmark of the best farmers’ markets. With farmers’ markets overflowing with the best of the season’s produce—corn on the cob, tomatoes, squash, stone fruit and more, all at the absolute peak of their ripeness—it’s easy to pull together an elegant, satisfying dinner menu that showcases the summer’s bounty.

If you know a bit of what to expect when you get to the farmers’ market, making decisions at each stall is much easier. Learn what grows in your area and talk to the growers about what will be coming to market in upcoming weeks. In the US, find your local farmers’ markets from United States Department of Agriculture 

  • Markets tend to be less crowded right when they open or just before they close.  For the best selection, go to the farmers’ market early in the day. The best goods go first. Popular-but-limited items may even sell out before the day is done. For the best deals, go to the farmers’ market late in the day. Farmers and other vendors often prefer to discount products instead of loading them back up and taking them home.
  • Some farmers’ market vendors offer bags, but they tend to be thin and flimsy plastic ones that can break under the pressure of any substantial produce purchase. Make sure everything gets home from the farmers’ market by bringing your own sturdy canvas or nylon bags.
  • Although vendors will make change, purchases will go easier and faster if you have small bills with you. Most farmers only take cash at the market.
  • If you find a vegetable that’s new to you and want to give it a try, ask the farmer how to prepare it. For the best tips specifically ask how they like to eat it.

farmersmarket 1

Summer Squash Salad with Arugula, Feta and Herbs

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 summer squash (medium-sized yellow or green, about 3-4 cups sliced squash)
  • 6 ozs arugula leaves (baby, 3-4 handfuls)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, mint and parsley)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese crumbled

Directions

Zest the lemon and place the zest in a bowl or glass measuring cup. Squeeze the juice from the zested lemon to measure 3 tablespoons. Add lemon juice to the zest, then whisk in the olive oil.

Cut off the ends of the squash and cut in half lengthwise; then cut into very thin slices. Layer the sliced squash into a flat dish and pour 2/3 of the dressing over the squash and season with a generous amount of salt and fresh ground black pepper. Let squash marinate 15-30 minutes.

Wash baby arugula leaves and spin dry or dry with paper towels. Wash herbs of your choice and spin dry or dry with paper towels and coarsely chop them.

Combine arugula and herbs in bowl large enough to hold all the salad ingredients. Add marinated squash slices, toss to combine and taste to see if you want to add more dressing, salt or fresh ground black pepper. Arrange salad on individual salad plates, sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese and serve.

farmersmarket 5

Grilled Panzanella Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • One 14 ounce loaf Italian bread
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 4 medium tomatoes (1-1/2 lbs total), diced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large seedless cucumber, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped

Directions

Heat a grill to medium-high heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cut bread loaf in half crosswise, then cut each half lengthwise into four 1-inch-thick slices, for a total of 8 slices. Brush slices lightly with olive oil. Grill 2 minutes per side; set aside. Lightly brush onion quarters with olive oil. Grill 5 minutes; rotate and grill another 5 minutes. Cut bread slices into 1-inch cubes.

Cut onion quarters into thin slices. Toss bread, onion, tomatoes, cucumber, garlic and basil in the reserved dressing. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine.

farmersmarket 6

Green Tomatoes with Red Pepper Aioli

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 pounds firm green tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil, for sauteing 

Directions

Aioli

Combine mayonnaise, red peppers and garlic in a processor or blender. Process until well combined and fairly smooth, scraping down sides of the processor halfway through. Transfer to a small bowl. Refrigerate until serving.

Tomatoes

Core tomatoes and cut a thin slice from the top and bottom of each and discard. Cut each tomato into three or four 1/4-inch-thick slices and dry on paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon of the salt.

Combine flour and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt in a shallow dish. Lightly beat eggs in a second shallow dish. Whisk together cornmeal, Parmesan, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the black pepper and cayenne in a third shallow dish.

Coat 1/3 of the tomato slices in the seasoned flour, followed by egg, then cornmeal mixture.

Heat oven to 200 degrees F.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the coated tomato slices and saute for 2 minutes. Carefully turn over the slices and saute an additional 2 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack and keep warm in the oven.

Repeat, coating 1/3 of the tomato slices with seasoned flour, egg and cornmeal mixture. Add 2 more tablespoons of the oil to skillet and saute as directed above. Repeat with the last batch of tomatoes and oil. Serve tomatoes warm with the aioli on the side.

farmersmarket 8

Grilled Shrimp and Bean Salad

Serve with cornbread, if desired.

Ingredients

  • 8 (12-inch) skewers
  • 2 pounds peeled, medium-size raw shrimp (21/25 count)
  • Basil Vinaigrette, divided (see recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 6 cooked bacon slices, crumbled
  • 1 1/3 cups (5 1/2 oz.) shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup chopped roasted almonds

Directions

Soak wooden skewers in water to cover 30 minutes or use metal skewers.

Meanwhile, combine shrimp and 3/4 cup Basil Vinaigrette in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal and chill 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

Preheat outdoor grill to 350°F to 400°F (medium-high) heat.

Cook green beans in boiling salted water to cover 4 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain, pat dry, and place in a large bowl.
Remove shrimp from the marinade, discarding marinade. Thread shrimp onto skewers.

Grill shrimp, covered with grill lid, 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp from the skewers and toss with green beans, crumbled bacon, Parmesan cheese, roasted almonds and remaining 3/4 cup Basil Vinaigrette.

Basil Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 large shallots, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup olive oil

Directions

Whisk together basil, balsamic vinegar, shallots, garlic, brown sugar, pepper and salt until blended. Gradually add olive oil, whisking constantly, until blended.

farmersmarket 2

 

Torta Salata di Zucchine e Cipolle (Zucchini, Onion and Ricotta Pie)

A savory summer pie from Italy’s Piedmont region is made with zucchini and onions, but feel free to substitute with peppers, eggplant, squash—even tomatoes.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 6 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Directions

Heat oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook garlic and shallot until golden, 4–6 minutes. Add zucchini; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; let cool. Stir in pecorino, ricotta, parsley, eggs, salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10″ pie plate with butter; coat with bread crumbs. Spread zucchini mixture evenly over the top and bake until golden on the top and slightly puffed, 40–45 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

farmersmarket 7

Grilled Chicken and Vegetables

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved lengthwise, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (about 1 1/4 pounds), trimmed 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

Directions

Preheat outdoor grill to medium-high. Combine oil, basil, marjoram and salt in a small bowl. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the mixture in another small bowl; set aside.

Coat both sides of bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, tomato and onion pieces with olive oil cooking spray. Grill the vegetables, turning once, until soft and lightly charred in spots, about 5 minutes per side for the pepper, 4 minutes per side for the eggplant and zucchini and 3 minutes per side for the tomatoes and onion.

Rub the tablespoon of reserved herb mixture on both sides of the chicken and sprinkle with pepper. Grill the chicken until cooked through and no longer pink in the center, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, transfer the grilled vegetables to a cutting board and chop into 1-inch pieces. Return to the bowl and toss with the vinegar and the remaining herb mixture. Serve the grilled chicken over the vegetables.

farmersmarket 3

Summer Berry Dessert

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 (16-ounce) container organic strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • 1 (6-ounce) container organic blackberries
  • 1 (6-ounce) container organic blueberries
  • 1 (6-ounce) container organic raspberries

Directions

Crush mint and sugar in a mortar and pestle until well-blended (or place sugar and mint in a blender or food processor and pulse until well-blended). Place mint-sugar in a large bowl and add strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. Gently toss until evenly combined.

Let the fruit sit for an hour. The berries will release some of their juices and soften.

farmersmarket 4

Plum Tart

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes, divided
  • 1 cup flour, plus more for baking dish
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb Italian plums or other firm plums, pitted and cut into eighths
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F . Coat an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with cooking spray and dust with flour; set aside.

Whisk the together the 1 cup flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add 4 tablespoons chilled butter and rub into flour mixture until pea-size pieces form.

Mix together milk, vanilla and egg in a small bowl; add to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Transfer dough to the prepared baking dish and spread over the bottom of the dish; arrange plum slices in rows on top of the dough.

Combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over plums.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter and drizzle over plums.

Bake until browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.



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